Prenatal and Perinatal Experiences Have Lifelong Impacts
Epigenetics and Attachment Theories Support Rebirthing Principals

Defining pre and perinatal psychology and describe why it is important to human development.

Prenatal and perinatal psychology is defined as an interdisciplinary study of the foundations of health in body, mind, emotions and in enduring response patterns to life. It explores the effects and implications of the earliest experiences of the individual, before birth ("prenatal"), as well as during and immediately after childbirth ("perinatal") on the health and abilities of the individual and on their relationships.   

I trained as a Rebirthing practitioner in 1996.  This training was a nine-month program where we looked at all aspects of birth, birth trauma, decisions we made about life and relationships, and how these issues are playing out and still impacting our lives today.   The modality of Rebirthing is a (conscious connected) breathing technique where these issues can be accessed and healed on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels.  Following this training I worked with many clients and witnessed firsthand the effects that conception, time in utero, birth, and the first year of life have on who we are and how we are in the world today and how rebirthing facilitates healing.

Now in 2016, human development and a variety of other disciplines including, cellular biology, neuroscience and many therapies which support the resolution of trauma are also confirming that the experiences of the child during conception, prenatal life, birth and the perinatal period do have effects on the development of the child.  These experiences can be supportive or not.  The good news is that for our less than ideal experiences, healing is possible!

Among many area of research that have greatly advanced since the early 1900’s two have stood out and greatly impacted our knowledge in this area.  They are Epigenetics and Attachment Theory.   In this essay I will very briefly introduce these topics to give a general picture of their importance.

The first area of importance is Epigenetics.  The 1990’s was designated the Decade of the Brain and a lot of funding went into embryology, neurology and other related fields.  In particular, the Human Genome Project, was initiated.  The expectation was that through the mapping of genes it would be possible to track disease and support the healing of those diseases.  It was believed that we humans had more than 100,000 genes.  In fact, only 25,000 genes were discovered.  The result of this discovery caused research to move in the direction of how environment plays a role in our development and how the environment influences gene expression.  This field is known as epigenetic and looks at how the environment and genetics interact.  Thus resolving the age old debate that how we are raised has major implications on our development into adulthood.

The other area is Attachment.  It is now recognized that the bond between parent/caregiver and child is vitally important in human development.  Attachment patterns start as early as pre-conception and continue through childhood into adulthood.  We will look very briefly at each of the main areas.

Conscious conception:  preparing for conception by both the mother and father has been shown to influence the DNA selection for a baby.  Both parents can cleanse and heal physically as well as emotionally in preparation of conception.  A strong healthy relationship between the parents also sets up the foundation of support for this new life.

Prenatal communication and bonding:  Life in utero is experiential and these experiences can be affected by the physical as well as emotional environment.  When a deep, loving, nurturing bond is formed between the baby and both parents in utero, the child develops a feeling of safety, lovability and is set up to form healthy relationships in life.

Birthing practices and recovery from birth:  ideally births with little to no intervention are optimal for both babies and moms. The body produces hormones which support both through the birth process and in recovery afterwards, however, unresolved issues can hinder those plans and interventions may occur.  Birth itself can be very traumatic even with an “uneventful” birth and babies make many unconscious decisions about life and relationships during this process.  Allowing the baby to breath spontaneously before cutting the umbilical cord means that this first breath and the babies first experience of life as separate being from its mom is soothing and healing and fosters feelings of safety in this new environment.

Skin-to-Skin and self-attachments:  Placing the baby on the mom just after birth is very beneficial for the baby on so many levels.  There are many examples of times when a baby who died during birth was placed on the mom and seemingly made a miraculous recovery and started breathing.

Breastfeeding: particularly when done exclusively and on demand until 6 months of age is optimal for the developing baby.  Many health risk factors are reduced and bonding is supported during this process.
Mom as support, mom as healer:  it is vitally important that mom’s receive as much support as possible in order to be the anchor for the family.  Depression, anxiety, illness and any other stressors will cause difficulty and can translate into issues for the baby later on.  Mom’s often sacrifice for the sake of the family, however, if caring for herself is a priority it will be reflected in how the baby develops and thereby allowing the whole family to benefit.

With this knowledge, we now know that how we conceive and support our children at all stages (including how we care for ourselves), influences their development and that of future generations.  It may not be possible to control every step in the process but by having the knowledge and doing the best that we can do we are setting our children up for the best possible outcome.  In conclusion I want to remind you that even though most of us have not had ideal starts in our own lives it is possible to heal any issues that are adversely affecting us in the here and now.

Published in Natural Awakenings of Fairfield County